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As we learn and deepen our experience with coaching we start to appreciate its many benefits. From the vantage point of 12 years of coaching, I note below four key gifts that I have witnessed for myself, my coaching colleagues and for the organizational leaders that have adopted a coaching style. Some of these are obvious benefits and some are more subtle arising out of an ability to take the principles of coaching and turn them back in on ourself.
Becoming a Better Leader
If you are an organisational leader or high potential thinking about how you can advance your leadership capability, then “graduating” as a coach could be a great way forward. You are learning a new way to lead, and it is an approach that will elevate your leadership and help you to stand out from others. A leader who adopts a coaching style, delivers broader impact as you learn how to accelerate the transformation of others. In fact, it could be argued that coaching is now best practice for leaders. As organisations are increasingly moving away from fixed hierarchical structures to more flexible structures based around project teams, peer collaborations, and contracting, a leader who adopts a coaching style will be better placed to influence, engage, relate, innovate and collaborate. Coaching is helping organisations to reshape leadership capabilities. As you look at the competencies of coaching, these mirror many of the capabilities that organisations now need in their leadership:
- How to develop a visionary narrative
- How to generate multiple possibilities or options
- Gain clarity about what to prioritise and focus on the goals that really matter
- How to better understand self and others
- Deep listening to build trust
- Improving the clarity and impact of communication and feedback
- Developing a solution focused mindset through a process of enquiry and discovery
- Enabling learning through ongoing reflection
- Connecting to intrinsic motivation as a way of generating and sustaining action
- Offering a healthy balance of support and challenge in managing progress
Leaders that use a coaching style seem more willing and able to take more systemic perspectives. They learn to both question and observe deeper patterns. They learn ways to step back to see systems where there may at first appear to be just chaos. Utilising a coaching style also helps leaders to focus on the strength of relationships and building rapport across the whole organisation and move away from just defending their own turf. These leaders learn to connect others into the strategic purpose that inspire whole businesses to move ahead in collaboration.
As a profession
Coaching provides a profession for many people in different ways:
- Coaching equips existing organisational advisors and consultants with additional tools and skills that allows them to work more extensively across a full range of personality types and leadership styles. You don't always need industry experience to be effective as a coach and the toolkit of a coach can expand the reach and impact of organisational consultants and advisors.
- Coaching provides an end of career profession for retiring senior executives. This career pathway is particularly useful for those executives with a natural interest in human dynamics or those who have excelled in their career by being effective people leaders.
- Coaching also plays an important part in a portfolio career. It may be combined with consulting or advisory work or training or lecturing or recruitment or even a role in a start-up or not-for-profit. As part of a portfolio career it has a double impact – it can directly generate income, and it will often improve the “value add” provided through the other work avenues.
Accelerated Personal Development
At its core, coaching is a process that greatly enhances our ability to understand both others and ourselves. As coaches we learn how mental states and emotions will influence actions and performance. We learn about the principles of neuroscience and replace the old myths about human behaviour with up to date evidence and science-based models. We also learn the value of that ageless practice of combining reflection with curiousity. Through these practices we grow our social intelligence and our self-awareness.
Are we the best possible version of ourselves? As coaches we learn to keep asking this question of ourselves and then of our clients. As a personal purpose, this simple but critical idea brings enormous clarity. And we learn as coaches to listen deeply to ourselves and others. This practice generates sustainable intrinsic motivation. The flow on benefits for ourselves and our clients include stronger performance; sustained energy; innovation, higher engagement and personal wellbeing.
Greater Agility & Resilience
Agility is essentially the ability to reflect, learn and adapt, whilst resilience is the ability to change combined with an ability to sit comfortably in the midst of considerable change. There are three key aspects of coaching that directly helps to build both agility and resilience in ourselves and in others.
- 1. Coaching endorses a deep curiosity about yourself and others. Being able to objectively observe people and situation before making decisions about what and how to change, is a requirement of effective agility. The relevant coaching competencies include listening, questioning and expressing.
- 2. At the core of coaching is a deepening of self-awareness and an ability to see yourself as an object with a mixture of strengths and development areas and not to get consumed with yourself and blindly defending your ego. This gives individuals and teams the ability to sit comfortably in the midst of change as the ego is less attached to specific pre-determined outcomes and more attached to learning to be adaptive and to respond to the changing needs of the market.
- 3. Coaching is inherently about continuing to grow and learn. This “growth mindset” builds the muscle of ongoing reflection, adaptation and refinement.
Whether you are becoming a full or part time, internal or external coach, you are much better placed to impact the people around you and the businesses they are running, whilst also growing your own personal capacity to work and live in an increasingly complex world.
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